Tuesday, September 6, 2016

'Never-ending Escom/Waterboard supply woes' blog from 2015

From flying monkeys sabotaging Malawi’s valued but quite expensive electricity supply to opposition members or vandals somehow removing transformers for “chiwaya cooking oil” or “switching off” to sabotage ruling parties and weeds and silt terrorizing the Shire River, Malawians have heard it all…why many unplanned Escom blackouts have been happening over the years.

Heads of state have not been spared with electricity power failing when they addressed visiting Presidents making some ruling party officials suspect opposition leaders of sabotage in the absence of a working generator.

Even animals have been blamed with a monkey being accused of causing a serious black-out in the past. The monkey was again blamed last year when Escom announced it had encroached into Nkula A power station switch yard and “caused a short circuit” on a power line leading to massive power cuts.

This is not forgetting the low water level stories and the 2002 floating water weed which threatened to “choke the Shire river” which happened to be a major source of hydro-electric power.

The public relations department was kept busy taking journalists on a tour of affected areas to capture photos of the weeds on the river negatively affecting electricity generation during the rainy season.

The public was not spared and deforestation was said to be a contributing factor, and not forgetting that during most Escom blackout city dwellers rely on charcoal or firewood to cook creating a vicious and dangerous cycle.

One thing is very clear in our country…..blackouts have become the order of the day and the sound of generators the norm in some companies. Ironically not many environmental problems were reported before the 1990s and yes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African countries have also recently been experiencing the dreaded load shedding.

But the fact remains that it is 51 years of Independence and the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (Escom) is struggling to be heading towards power every day with a lot of excuses.

Some consumers on Facebook and Twitter have gone as far as nicknaming Escom the “Entertainer of the Year”.

The same can be said of various waterboards throughout the country with many Malawian women spotted in the cities balancing buckets on their heads hunting for water during periods when taps run dry.

Some of those living near dirty streams find an opportunity to make quick money by charging for city residents to use the water…..this is despite the fact that Malawi has rivers, streams and a lake.

So what exactly is the problem or the root of the problem one might ask? Is it only population growth and outdated equipment? Are forces of nature, human error or negligence by the public the real reasons consumers fail to access good services from Escom and Waterboards?
Does anyone have an answer that won't change next year?
Water is life
Blantyre Water Board (BWB) customers include domestic, industrial, institutional and commercial ones and there are an estimated 40,000 according to information on their website.  http://www.bwb.mw/

Yet out of those places like Chilobwe and Soche East don’t always have daily water supply and other places like BCA can stay for weeks without seeing a drop of water.

The same can be said of some out of town places like Bvumbwe in Thyolo were many can stay for weeks without water including in far away places as Mulanje….but the high bills continue being delivered.

It’s ironic that Mulanje with Mulanje Mountain nearby with plenty of water flowing down it can have residents without easy access to clean water. How long will the story-telling go on for…should people stop bathing or drinking water to prove a point that water is life and a necessity?

But Dziwe la Nkhalamba is a sacred pool despite what foreigners say but water can be used from Mt Mulanje

It’s also strange how countries which have less water are able to use it effectively.  In 1968 when former Malawi President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda addressed the Knesset in Israel he observed how they had a “desert with rocks all over” which they removed and “brought soil from far away and created fertile fields to grow many different crops.”

Israel was hardly 8000 square miles with a population of just over 2 million while Malawi was about 35,000 square miles of which 9000 was water…how are we using that water?!  Where did the flood water go...into the Indian Ocean and no rain or water harvesting?

Holland is said to be 41,500 km of which 7,700 is water but they are known to be good at water management.  Can’t Malawi borrow a leaf and apply it to some parts of Malawi prone to floods during some rain seasons whilst tackling deforestation and soil erosion?

Malawi needs to get organized since we have a lot of untreated water and make sure city residents and those living in villages get their money’s worth by ensuring a constant supply of clean water and providing it during shortages to prevent people from drinking and using dirty and unhygienic water.

Muddy water coming out of taps or seeing things floating in the water or delaying to use chlorine is wrong and an eyesore for those who pay for that water.

We need to apply what we learn from other nations after so many "familiarization tours" since the 1990s.  How many times will we be visiting Israel to learn more about irrigation?  Didn't we know that in 1968?

Electricity is not a luxury
If one checks Escom’s website they will notice a load-shedding schedule for today, Sunday, the 13th of September but they should not be surprised if the public utility does not stick to its schedule and catch people unawares. http://www.escom.mw/South/South%207-13%20September%202015.htm

Escom says its mandate is to “generate, transmit and distribute electricity in the country” and become a preferred “world class provider of reliable and sustainable electricity to the nation and in the region.”

We appeal to Escom to reduce the number of blackouts in the country and hope they will expand to cater for an increased population which seems to be still growing.

We don’t want to be reminded of the time US preacher and speaker Joyce Meyer visited Malawi and explained how her jet could not land at Chileka Airport because “the runway lights were not working” and then they had to fly to Lilongwe and after being booked in “a nice hotel…the lights went out” as soon as she entered the room and she had to find her way around using a candle using her own words.

Continuous blackouts are denting Malawi’s image and could scare away some potential investors bearing in mind not all of our rural areas are lit up!  So maybe it’s time to wake up…..’Dzuka Malawi’ as Francis Kalawe sings in his popular online song.

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star.

.....watch this space.